I’ll never be a hard-body type. Before my pregnancy, I often reproached myself for not having the discipline to give up chocolate and whittle my 135-pound frame down to a chic, bikini-worthy 125 pounds. But then I gave birth to Rowan, and my whole perspective—and body—changed. My hips are wider, for instance, but my arms are stronger too. Now I’m thrilled to be back to 135 pounds, and I use every ounce to walk Rowan to daycare, power through my work day, carry him to bed and then cuddle my husband. I’m flaunting my assets a bit more, too. No point drawing attention to my soft, stretch-marked tummy when I can show off a bit of cleavage, right? The only thing that’s really changed is the way I feel about myself.
You have the power to love your body, too. “It takes work, so the idea is to make small changes,” says Dr. Traci McFarlane, a psychologist at Toronto General Hospital and author of The Overcoming Bulimia Workbook (New Harbinger). Here are six ways to get started:
Do a bit of digging
Even if you love how you look now, you may be still be carrying some baggage from the past. “Our bodies are like a narrative,” says Marcia Hutchinson, a Boston-area psychologist and author of 200 Ways to Love the Body You Have (Crossing). “If you were eight-years-old and somebody told you that you had thunder thighs, it’s stuck there along with feelings of shame and disgust.” Try to pinpoint the time that you began to feel negatively about your body and ask yourself whether those issues are still valid.
Learn to belly dance
Or golf, or do yoga poses. Developing new skills can help you focus on how your body feels and what it can do for you instead of its appearance, says Dr. McFarlane. Try shopping around for a new activity that suits your body or personality
, or join a friend to do something out of the ordinary.
Whenever your internal body critic pipes up, respond with a positive affirmation that feels right to you, such as, ‘I am uniquely beautiful,’ or ‘I’m a valuable person.’ “Affirmations counteract the drip, drip, drip of negative self talk that we do all the time,” Hutchinson says.
Picture the real you
Take out some photos of yourself over the years. When you look at them, ask yourself how you felt about your body in each, suggests Dr. Hutchinson. What’s the common element in the photos you really like, and how can you play that up now? If you can’t find a picture you like, ask your friends and family to point out their favourite photo of you and explain why they like it.
Take a time-out
For one day, take note of the time and energy you spend grooming yourself, criticizing your body or paying attention to how people respond to your looks. Then think of three ways you could use that time better, says Dr. Hutchinson.
Accentuate the positive
Reflect on your favourite features
and then work them, baby. Celebrate your strong shoulders by anointing them with shimmer lotion, for example, or treat your sexy, tireless tootsies to a home pedicure